Back-to-School shopping posts are all over Facebook. Yesterday, I saw one from a former colleague who was taking her daughter to get everything she needed for her first year of high school. Today, another colleague gleefully reported she had scored two class sets of highlighters at a ridiculously low price at a local store. I almost jumped in the car to go get some when I remember that I don’t need class sets anymore. Despite the fact I won’t be going back to my own classroom this fall, I still look at the ads and think about how I would set up my room and how I would make the first week of school memorable.
Another Facebook post earlier this week reminded that there are gems hidden away in the professional sections of school libraries just waiting to be liberated by an adventurous teacher looking for inspiration.
The message in the image to the left is important, however, what caught my eye was the name, Jim Trelease. The post sent me scurrying to my bookshelves and there it was—Read All About It! Great Read-Aloud Stories, Poems, & Newspaper Pieces for Preteens and Teens. It’s still available on Amazon!
Some of the benefits of reading aloud to middle schoolers include:
• Building vocabulary
• Improving comprehension
• Building a literacy-rich culture in your classroom or on your team
• Introducing students to genre and authors they wouldn’t pick on their own.
In Read All About It!, Trelease includes themes such as Growing Pains, Fantastic Tales, Classics, Chilling Tales, Historical Fiction. and…anticipating the Common Core by 15 years…Nonfiction as Literature! He provides a bit of background information and related titles. Quick, go find your library’s copy and check it out for six weeks. Keep it on your desk and you have a ready-made advisory activity, a lead-in to silent sustained reading, a hook for an upcoming lesson, or perhaps just a vehicle for sharing some enjoyable minutes with your students as you explore a fine piece of literature together. Visit Trelease’s webpage: http://www.trelease-on-reading.com/
I began to wonder what other dusty copies might be just waiting to be rediscovered in the school library? These topics and titles came to mind:
Building Community/Get-to-Know You Activities—Two classics from way back when whose activities have been adapted over the years:
• The New Games Book was first published, gasp, in 1976! Raise your hand if you were even alive then! Here’s a portion of a review on Amazon. “This book is loaded with all sort of fun games to do as a group outside such as a family gathering, church picnic, camp activity, etc. The games involve a lot of human interaction and contact, allowing people to get to know each other better and laugh and exercise and communicate all in one activity.
I would recommend this book to anyone who just wants to do something besides the everyday get together. It really has a lot of very creative ideas for allowing more fun among a gathering of people. A lot of the games require a lot of cooperation and good sportsmanship among the players. It’s all in good fun. A great way to get to know each other better. The motto as the book subtitle indicates is, “Play Hard, Play Fair, Nobody Hurt!”
• Silver Bullets: A Guide to Initiative Problems, Adventure Games, & Trust Activities is another resource for activities that help students come together and appreciate one another’s strengths.
The next time you are at school, do an archeological dig in your library’s stacks and see if you can unearth these still-relevant gems from an earlier time. They are packed with ideas to use as is or to adapt for your own situation.
Personalization, individualized learning, and differentiation. These concepts each have some unique characteristics, but they all focus on creating a classroom where one-size-lesson-plans do not cut it. Organizing classroom routines, grading, and structuring learning environments in these ways can be quite daunting. Dr. Carol Ann Tomlinson, herself a former middle school teacher, has led the way in writing about classrooms that meet individual learning needs. Check out one of her books for ideas that you can adapt to your particular situation.
Maine Studies: In 1989 The Maine Literature Project published Maine Speaks: An Anthology of Maine Literature. Its intended audience was middle and high school students, and its purpose was to provide Maine students access to the rich and varied literary heritage of our state. Authors and peoples represented include:
• The Wabanaki
• Edna St. Vincent Millay
• Sarah Orne Jewett
• The Passamaquoddy
• French immigrants
• Factory workers
• Fishing, farming, and lumbering families
• Marsden Hartley
Organized by the themes of Identity, Nature, Work, Communities, and Origins, these pieces are rich in history, voice, and texture—authentic pieces of Maine life for the 2015 classroom.
So…take a walk on the wild side and detach yourself from the digital world. Visit the professional resources section of your school library and shop for free. You just might be surprised by what you find!